Mobile phone users in Tanzania will from next month freely choose a mobile service operator from any of eight telecom companies in the country while keeping the same mobile number.
The EastAfrican has established that the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has finalised regulations for mobile number portability (MNP).
“The Authority will launch the service officially before the end of the month or at the beginning of March,” said Semu Mwakyanjala, acting communication manager of the TCRA.
Mobile number portability allows customers to retain their numbers when switching from one service provider to another with their contacts and other information intact.
According to TCRA, the procedure of changing from one mobile network operator to another will be co-ordinated and controlled by a licensed entity.
In addition, the Mobile Number Portability Regulations entitle the new network to manage the shifting processes on behalf of the subscriber within two working days after receiving a porting request.
“The porting processes shall be designed around a “one-stop-shop” concept, whereby the customer shall start the porting procedure by contacting the new operator or service provider and the proposed recipient operator shall be required to manage the process on behalf of the customer.”
In a country with more than 40 million mobile phone users, the current shifting process from one mobile operator to another requires a new registered SIM card with a different number and sometimes an extra handset.
The mobile portability technology is expected to boost competition in the mobile communication industry in Tanzania, improve network services for mobile operators in the country and compel telecom companies to reduce service charges to retain customers.
There are eight mobile phone operators in the country that would be involved in the new service. The companies are MIC Tanzania Ltd trading as Tigo, Vodacom Tanzania, Bharti Airtel Tanzania, Tanzania Telecommunications Company (TTCL), Zanzibar Telecom Ltd (Zantel), Smile and Benson Informatics Ltd trading as Smart and Halotel.
In Africa, Tanzania has taken its cue from countries like Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, which had adopted the mobile number portability service.
In Kenya, portability flopped because of the fee that was being charged and the preference by many subscribers for separate SIM cards, hence the popularity of dual sim phones.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa said mobile number porting was highest during a period of 13 months from October 2014 to October 2015 when 1.1 million numbers were ported.